China has offered 500,000 doses of a coronavirus vaccine to its ally Pakistan, an apparent response to the rolling out of supplies by India for its neighbours and key partners, including three million doses delivered to Bangladesh and Nepal on Thursday.
Two Indian flights carried two million doses of Covishield to Dhaka and one million doses to Kathmandu, and people familiar with matter said on condition of anonymity that supplies would be sent to Seychelles (50,000 doses), Mauritius (100,000 doses) and Myanmar (1.5 million doses) on Friday. Seven countries – Bhutan, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Seychelles, Myanmar and Mauritius – are part of India’s initial rollout of vaccines as assistance. There are plans to supply doses to Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. The people added commercial supplies of Covishield to several countries that have agreements with the Serum Institute of India will also begin Friday. Two flights will carry two million doses each to Brazil and Morocco.
After a phone conversation with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi announced on Thursday that Beijing had gifted 500,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine as aid.
“I want to give the nation the good news that China has promised to immediately provide 500,000 doses of vaccine to Pakistan by January 31,” Qureshi said. “They (China) have said you can send your airplane and immediately airlift this drug.”
Pakistan is currently the world’s most populous country that hasn’t rolled out a vaccination drive. It is also the only country in the region to have approved the Sinopharm vaccine for emergency use. The approval for Sinopharm earlier this week came days after Pakistan cleared the AstraZeneca vaccine.
In Kathmandu, while handing over vaccine supplies to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli , Indian envoy Vinay Mohan Kwatra said this reflected “India’s Neighbourhood First policy in action”. Oli thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Indian government for the “generous grant…”
Observers have noted that India speedily rolled the aid despite the massive requirements of its own vaccination drive that began on January 16. The assistance came against the backdrop of China’s efforts to forge cooperation in fighting Covid-19 within South Asia by holding meetings with Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh since last year.
Former ambassador Vishnu Prakash lauded the alacrity with which India responded to needs of its neighbours, saying it was in line with its efforts to be the first responder in all emergencies.
“This is my definition of the Neighbourhood First policy. It is the kind of policy and approach that we need to follow and its shows the difference between India and other countries.”